Every morning I wake with a sense of gratitude. There is a sign at our front door greeting visitors; "With gratitude, the Universe is endlessly abundant". It wasn't as if I had had this sense of gratitude my entire life, rather it grew inside of me and came about through life experiences. These experiences have not only involved profoundly beautiful, spiritual and connected moments, but also deeply painful and trying times. The extremes lead to a deeper and deeper sense of gratitude for simply being alive.
The attitude of gratitude is not to deny the reality of what might be happening in the world, rather, it's a choice to focus, (even if for a short amount of time), on what I have in my life, rather than what I don't have. It also has a beautiful ability to dissolve the power-play of competition and comparison that acts out so strongly in cultures and societies. As covered before in a previous Podcast, "Moving Beyond Comparison and Competition", these two energies are from an old paradigm and do not exist in a place of gratitude or abundance.
Gratitude is an ancient practice, often exercised in forms of Yoga, Meditation and other modalities of spirituality. To me, it is simply about making a choice, to create space for grace, where I can honor all of life at the deepest levels. It can also involve the acceptance of impermanence; that change is inevitable.
When I practice gratitude, I feel a deep sense of connection with existence. My heart is more open, I am able to experience life with a sense of wonder and adventure.
Through observation, it has been noticeable that humility and compassion are qualities that also emerge and expand when one is grateful. Even when I have encountered anger or fear while in a space of gratitude, those energies eventually subside. Anger or fear do not exist when I am genuinely compassionate and grateful.
Written by Laura Naomi © copyright 2019
When turquoise is given the space to rise to the surface, we are also given the opportunity to practice patience and gratitude by allowing things to be as they are. Mother Earth is sharing her life-blood.
As I picked up the turquoise and felt its energy, it glowed the most magnificent blue color. It was magical, healing and alive shining with incredible beauty. I felt a certain sadness within the dream, along with gratitude, wonder and something deeply spiritual. The sadness was because a vast majority of humankind has lost their way. We have stopped listening. We have forgotten. Yet at the same time Mother Earth spoke to me through her immense capacity for love and compassion.
© "Wellness for the Soul" - Laura Naomi
Artwork created in 2018
The Doorways of Santa Fe
We'd driven through Santa Fe, albeit during a snow storm on New Years Eve a few years ago. We had been on our way to the Grand Canyon, but mother nature had other ideas. This time, although no snow, the streets were still quiet and were a maze for the cold wind to dance. A few artisans remain huddled waiting for the last stragglers to walk by. Although the end of Winter held back visitors, it did not hinder the creative spirit clearly felt and seen in every direction. The artist in me soaked it all in, the diversity wondrously healing for my soul.
I started noticing hidden doorways that beckoned me with their story. I feel deliciously drawn by the mystery of what lies beyond; my imagination starts to soar. I wonder what the story is that weaves mine with theirs... My curious spirit wanders to great depths, as each scene shares its tale. The worn wood, the well-trodden stairway, the emotion captured indefinitely in sculptures, the morning light shining gently upon rustic walls, the wings of great angels, eagles and hearts. It becomes a carnival for the eyes, almost to the point of overwhelm that we have to pause and take a breath.
After tracing more roads, we came to rest for a while inside a quaint hotel. Sitting by the fire I felt as though we'd traveled to another country. More doorways opened to more doorways, each revealing a mystery within. It felt not unlike the nature of human beings; that inside each of us are doorways, which open to more doorways, revealing the mystery within.
Photography and writing by: Laura Naomi
© Santa Fe, New Mexico, 2019
As the morning broke, we watched an ever-changing mist dancing upon the surface of a still Lake Pukaki. A gentle breeze teased the air, as the mist twirled and plumed about. We gazed for some time and captured the moods of the moment. The daylight of the South Island offered magical gifts around every corner; gentle whispers of ice dripping into mossy streams; giant glaciers cracking and sighing as they maneuvered their way along well traveled channels; birds sung as if formed by the strings of a harp, their beauty elegant and fairy-like. The evening offered a different demeanor; its darkness vast and silent, casting us into another world. We sang to the stars and listened as the last note echoed among the peaks; not a moment later the mountain rumbled in an eerie reply.
Photography and writing by: Laura Naomi
© Lake Pukaki, New Zealand, 2014
The peaks jutted gracefully into the afternoon sky. I was awe-struck. The only sound, an occasional cawing from the resident ravens. As we stood in the unearthly silence, their throaty voices shared legends of the ancient mountains. The longer we stood in the silence, the deeper the peace resonated. I felt it settle into me, finding a place of rest - as had the unwavering lake, mirroring a tranquil scene perfectly present to all of existence.
Photography and writing by: Laura Naomi
© Teton National Park, Wyoming, 2017
As I walk along the street I turn to notice a series of lowered heads. It could almost pass for a collective slumber; the world has (literally) fallen asleep. Perhaps the afternoon siesta has hit the western world? But, of course not, it’s just texting. Thumbs are going full speed ahead, clicking in code, texting in icons and smilies. I also see eyes glued to iPads, minds linked to cyber space. I contemplate on societies or individuals without access to the web. I wonder what it must be like for them not owning a cell phone, a computer, or some technical device. I reflect further feeling the increasing distance between those people and communities. Most people I know rely on the internet, yet I do know some who don’t (intentionally). There are also a vast amount who don’t unintentionally. I have come to realise that social media and the internet for some has become an addiction. In fact, it has developed into a serious issue. Human beings are linked through energy more so than ever, via these channels, yet there is still a deep unconsciousness about this area of existence.
I continue to walk past most people attached to a device of some sort, talking to it, through it, at it, with it. I feel as though time is on fast forward around me, it almost seems like a blur as I slow down inside my own space. I order a chai and I find that even when I move my arm to take a sip, it seems like an eon passes for the cup to reach my lips. I taste an earthy honey merged with spices and a faint hint of vanilla. I am aware of all my senses.
Anxiety and stress are some of the most common issues I hear when people come to an appointment. It often takes a lot of time and effort to be able to let go and surrender. The Hare to me represents the pace of modern times; do more, be more, go faster, I want, I should, you should, we all should. I want it yesterday! Instant gratification. Addiction. Reward is given when “it” (whatever ‘it’ is, usually reaching a goal) is achieved in the quickest manner possible. The faster the better, because the Western world is a consumer society that has gotten very demanding and greedy. This promotes competition and comparison and is something we are fed very early in life. The Hare also has a bit of an inflated ego. He thinks he’s stronger, superior and embodies arrogance.
I see both the Hare and Tortoise inside every human being and it is magnified in Western culture. I relate more to the Tortoise personally because I was taught that doing something well was more important than doing it quickly (or half-assed). It’s better to lay a stable, balanced and secure foundation rather than look good doing it. It’s almost like a theatre set, where the façade looks spectacular, yet it is only a prop for the stage. The substance is the energy, the feelings, the rawness of the performance. If I cannot reach my audience or touch the hearts of those who showed up, then both you and I will be left feeling disheartened.
I notice a particular tree swaying gently in the wind. The leaves flutter slightly. The tree is in no hurry to go anywhere or become anything. The breeze and the leaves almost become one yet they are defined at the same time. A perfect union. No one controlling the other, just a synchronistic dance of no effort. I reached for my cell phone and looked it over for a moment. I remembered an elder some time ago pointing to the trees, the rocks and then a lamp post then the concrete pathway saying, “you and I and all these things, even the man-made things, we are all made up of the same stuff”. I remember his round cheeks and dark eyes.
I reflect deeper. What would happen if everyone on the planet stopped doing for a moment. What if each human turned to another human being and said… Hi. I see you. I hear you. Your presence matters in the world. What if we focused on just one breath. Feeling life enter our lungs and feeling the air leave the body again. A miracle of existence. I’m alive! You’re alive! How blessed am I? To be alive! To write these words. To connect to you.
I feel the wisdom of this moment and know that there is no race that I’m running. No competitors. No one to compare myself to. That is an illusion. If I give attention to what is happening inside of me, and what is happening inside of others - to listen well, I am being fully present right now.
Have you ever been emotionally charged having received an email or text that was less than desirable? Once I almost walked into a pole. I was not being present to what is happening around me, only the intensity of my emotion. This is the scattered energy of the Hare.
It was a good reminder to let go and do the things necessary to return to stillness. Taking the time to do this brings me back to the awareness that I am not these emotions. I am experiencing them, yet it is not necessary to run around frantically. It will achieve nothing. In fact, the only thing it will achieve is more anxiety and stress.
There is a lot of mockery around people who are perceived as ‘slow’ in the western culture. In school, it is interpreted as there is something wrong with that student. Everybody has different styles of learning and different ways of navigating through life.
Being able to remain connected to the stillness inside also connects one to synchronicity. Even in chaos. Riding the waves becomes a skill because chaos is a natural part of life. When I am in this peaceful place, my relationship to others and my environment is like the wind in those leaves; everything is connected, yet defined at the same time. Unity. Nature remembers, now it’s in our hands as human beings to remember.
I become aware of my cell phone again and smile. It is made up of the same essence as all other things. I am not attached to it though. It’s an object. It doesn’t hold any power other than what I give it. It’s like a lot of things really. Like fear - fear only exists when it is inside of me.
Behind the bravado, behind the Hare’s impatience and need to look good and be flashy, is unconsciousness. He misses things. He isn’t paying attention to the little things. He misses messages, the more subtle energies around him that hold immense wisdom. He is disconnected to why he took the journey in the first place. He’s gotten caught up in “stigmas” and “should’s” and egoism. He’s forgotten to just be himself. Sometimes the Hare aspect of me enjoys a faster pace, especially in business, yet instead of being self-absorbed, I choose to act with presence, where I’m conscious of other’s needs too. Some may take a slower pace, while others are at full speed. What will benefit all is finding a way to work together. Deep within me is a space where no time exists, there is no sense of pace at all and there is no need or desire to be attached to ‘getting it done’ or wanting something yesterday. Things occur at the right time and right place. Forcing it will only cause upset. The Tortoise in me is pretty strong. It is quite content observing and being. Exploring things to deep levels is what it does and sitting in a particular space for a period of time. Time is irrelevant in this space and the Tortoise is aware of it… and it keeps on going. There’s awareness of what is happening around me, there’s awareness of others. I’m noticing the subtleties, the energies and things that seem so tiny, yet bring incredible joy to my being. I’m allowing the moment to unfold, yet I am also very focused and very present. I’m laying down a sound foundation, that I come to feel and experience very well. I do not worry what I look like, because there will be moments where I look at my worst, yet, I feel alive and I am not attached or consumed by what others may think. I am connected to a deep sense of gratitude. I am alive. I am here, sharing this with you. How lucky am I.
Written by Laura Naomi
© Laura Naomi 2018
How often do you find yourself wondering if you've understood what someone's implied, said or expressed? Was there a hidden meaning or intention perhaps? Was there uncertainty about what they really meant? Did you feel confusion or maybe information was missing so you didn't get the whole picture?
On many occasions I've had to clarify what I've meant or have had to ask another to, because I didn't want to 'fill in the blanks'. There are so many different forms of communication that sometimes just getting clarity from the verbal form, is quite a feat. While I was teaching English as a second language, I sometimes felt like google search engine was in my head asking "Do you mean?..."
It was invaluable experience learning about other cultures.
Communication difficulties are common within families, between friends, in the workplace, in governments and within one's self. If someone is from a different background (that would be literally everyone!), or is from a different culture, religious beliefs and social structure, it can add complexities.
Just for good measure, let's also bring in the more subtle forms of communication; what is happening energetically. This opens up a whole other dimension.
These days with so much 'noise' through technology, it can be chaotic. With humanity's increasing energetic sensitivity, over-stimulation of senses and an extraordinary amount of communication from so many sources, it can cause overwhelm. This constant availability to cellphones, internet, social media and the like has a "charging" affect on people who are already energetically receptive. It can have both positive and negative affects so I feel it is even more important in our society to have a support structure for those waking up to their awareness and for those already on the path.
Effective communication involves many qualities;
Even when someone is not verbally communicating, they are still interacting. For example: exclusion is a form of communication where energy is being shut off or shut down (it is common for people to put up an energy barrier to feel safe or protect themselves). Open communication is a core element of intimacy. When I express myself in an honest open way, I also often feel vulnerable so I need to trust in order to do this.
It is said that to assume something is to make an "Ass out of You And Me". To me, assuming is much like filling in the blanks, which I find myself doing a lot when there is information missing. Indeed, much can get (very) lost in translation when I assume something. This can lead to making stories up in my mind and it can get out of control. It is always important to enquire or ask if one is not sure. When it comes to texting, emailing and the internet I have come across so many miscommunications, assumptions, judgments and so on. I love things like Skype as a traveler and ex-pat, to visually see family and friends across the world, yet, after a recent visit from family, there is nothing like in-person connection. All the subtleties that one misses can cause a lot of misunderstanding.
Some people withhold because they are afraid to talk for whatever reason. Fear is often linked to the throat chakra - communication, truth, expression, sound. In many cultures and societies people's voices are suppressed and oppressed.
Communication is also a two way (or more) interaction and most of it is energetic. When a person isn't being heard or acknowledged, this may cause them to feel dismissed, not valued, excluded and any number of feelings. When a person won't let go, won't open up, will not meet the other/s half way, then confusion, frustration and assumptions can begin to creep in. Verbal communication can work wonders to clarify what is happening for someone, even for mind-readers :)
My relationship with conscious community has offered a support system for me personally to emerge into the world, feeling empowered, heard and valued. I have observed, heard and seen that authentic connection is missing for a lot of folks out there. This connection is not limited to human beings; it extends to nature, animals and the cosmos. One can have this connection within the self, with one other, a group or feel it with all creation. Although I run my business via the internet and the phone I have strong boundaries and I know that it is unhealthy to be available 24/7. So I disconnect regularly with the material world and connect with nature, where I can simply be. I seek depth and what gives me this is being real with myself and my community.
Written by Laura Naomi
© 2018 Laura Naomi
It was a sunny day although rather cold when I took my inner critic for a walk. I wanted some space so I kept a comfortable distance from her; both of us walking a tire track on the road. I felt uncomfortable, yet I wanted to give her an opportunity to get some fresh air - get the cobwebs out of her hair and off her rather miserable looking jacket. She was old and gnarly, yet the size of a child. She hobbled and sort of whined every now and then. We walked in silence, yet it wasn't that peaceful silence I've grown to love. It was awkward. I felt her obstinance and I started questioning myself. Had I done something already that she'd disapproved of... perhaps I had chosen the wrong path. Maybe it was the wrong time of day? Too much sun glare? Too cold? Suddenly I stopped myself. I realised I had already linked into her energy. How devious! I shook my head and laughed out loud.
"Very tricky", I said to her.
She glared at me with judgment. "What do you think this will do?" she said sharply. "You and I both know you are worthless."
I listened to her waffle on and continued walking, while she hobbled. After another moment of silence, I asked, "What is your purpose?"
Without hesitation she said, not without contempt, "To keep you small. To silence you. To sabotage and demean you... "
I got the idea.
I kept walking and waited, the air clear and fresh on our faces.
"What else do you need to say?" I asked again.
"I'll always find a flaw in everything you do. That's my job".
"You are exceptional at it!" I applauded her.
She scowled and stopped in defiance. She was angry.
"You have my attention" I said, "Isn't that what you want?"
The sun was descending into the west casting a beautiful golden light over the mountains and fields. A river trickled by to our left in a soothing serenade.
I looked into her hazy yet piercing eyes. "What is it that you really want to say?" I pressed.
It looked as though she was about to burst with anger. Her knobby legs shook. Her absurdly long fingers were clenched so tight her knuckles turned white. Her face was screwed up in all sorts of contortions and then in an instant she let out an enormous sigh and sunk onto the earth.
In that moment her energy changed. All around was quiet, as if pausing just for her. The trees and grass hushed in the breeze. The clouds hung in anticipation across the fading sky.
"I am afraid" came the words.
As the wind picked up I hugged my shawl, pulling it closer to my chest. "Yes", I said quietly.
"I am afraid I will not be seen... I'm afraid that I will not be heard and that I do not exist".
Tears welled in her eyes. Her face had changed to not be so grotesque, rather soft and innocent, yet full of fear and sorrow.
I sat down in front of her and waited.
"I have to throw a tantrum to be noticed" she said "And, if I am perfect then they will see me. I will be loved".
I felt the tears in my eyes now. My critic was tiny, innocent and hadn't grown up yet. I opened my heart and kept listening in case she needed to say more, to be heard or be seen.
"I have had to be something else other than myself so then maybe I will be seen, I will exist". she continued quietly.
"Yes" I responded gently. "We did that for a while".
Another long pause entered the space as the sun dipped lower to kiss the peaks of the mountains.
"What is it that you need?" I asked slowly.
"I need to feel safe" she replied.
The air between us seemed to gradually grow warmer, more comfortable and open. I felt compassion and love for this child-like part of myself. She was fragile, yet strong. I held her in that moment and I agreed that I would listen to her. She needed to be validated and heard; to know that she was important and that she was safe. Now she had the opportunity to mature in her own time - with my support and guidance as the adult.
As dusk fell around us, the stars began to twinkle. A crescent moon smiled crookedly from above as if in a private sort of joke. The wind was getting colder so I stood and looked at the child.
"Shall we go home now?" I smiled.
She nodded "Yes".
I reached out my hand and she took it. We walked back along the road, crooked moon smile illuminating the way. With the breeze pushing us along, we walked in silence. We'd been seen and heard and held by the sun. Homeward now, to be friends.
Written by Laura Naomi
© 2018 Laura Naomi, "Wellness for the Soul"
Emerging from Yellowstone we headed into land that I had never explored.
To Montana, the Crow Reservation and where the Garden of a Thousand Buddhas sat, nestled among the hills. The way I heard of the Garden came through an unlikely channel, however, I felt called so it became one of the few focal points of our journey.
Zen has played a large part in my life. Walking with stillness beyond complexity. Touching extremes, where opposites cancel each other out. Existing where only emptiness remains. Carrying out tasks, that seem completely human, yet which bring deep pleasure and child-like delight.
I have found that my relationship to what is natural has had a great affect on my wellbeing - that the very essence of what is Zen is found in my connection to nature. Nature does not have agendas, it does not yearn for love, to be accepted nor hang onto emotion like a frayed memory. It does not force itself onto another, try to convince anything or anyone else of it's reality. It is through this connection, among other things, that I have come to remember the real me.
I noticed that the more peaceful I felt inside myself, the more I felt it around me. And, the more I experienced it around me, the more at peace I became.
I wrapped myself in white cloth to shade myself from the sun. The wind tugged at my clothes as I stepped out of the car. It seemed to enjoy dancing with me, almost whipping away the cloth and tossing it into the air like a leaf in a storm. We wandered through the Thousand Buddhas. Each had a prayer, each in a pattern aligned with the medicine wheel. After some time, we felt drawn to the hilltop with prayer flags. We climbed the hill, the warm sun a little too warm for my liking, however when we reached the top, I felt liberated.
Walking around the temple of flags the wind tore its way through the plentiful windows. I loved the wild gusts, I felt like cobwebs were being blown from my bones. I felt drawn to be inside the temple, so in the center we sat.
The flags waved at each other in colourful gestures that seemed almost like a random order. I closed my eyes. I started to hear rain. The sun flickered through the material, like filtered light through leaves. A peace washed over me listening to the sound of flags snapping like rain drops in a continual liquidless downpour.
Many moments passed and I felt cleansed. I didn't want to go, yet the world ruled by time had other plans. It pulled me back although I remained outside its grasp. We wandered further to more buddhas set at the foothills. Pausing for longer, we then returned to the circle, expressing gratitude to the Thousand Buddhas.
The big sky had dimmed as if some unseen hand had turned down the light, to set a romantic mood. The land was a merging of peaceful people, of spirituality and of deep healing. I felt reaffirmed. All the words in the world vanished, and an invisible purity whispered in our hearts. A deep peace remained, held by a world of compassion.
Blog written by Laura Naomi
© Laura Naomi
Useful traveling tips and information
My Experience: Vast beauty
The Garden of a Thousand Buddhas
My Experience: Peace and gratitude
Unless you live in Montana, the Garden is a long way to get to. There are many beautiful areas to explore no matter what direction you're coming from. It is a must to visit on a Wyoming - Montana road trip. Going with no expectations, for me it is a space that is peaceful and gentle. Although very subtle, the experience was abundant and the energy of the land vast.
The journey began traveling north towards Cheyanne. It took some time for me to relax, let go and detach from the last month. Sipping on a green tea and humming to tunes we headed along the road, more than ready for another journey.
Cheyanne greeted us with a familiar smiling face and a warm embrace. We spent the evening in graceful company, talking, eating and drinking good wine. I learnt a lot that night, while my heart filled with affection and kindness, the kind that you receive from open hearts and compassion.
With a belly full of joy and tea we hit the road again the next morning. Excitement built in my veins as we headed towards the Tetons, yet we were hours away before crossing their path. The road slowly became empty, occasionally a car would speed by in a blur as the fields opened up to rolling hills and beyond.
I looked to my phone to see if we’d made the right turn. No reception. We look at each other. I scratched my head. Time for the real road map; the one with tattered pages that I could hold in my hands. I dusted it off, I just needed good eye sight not wifi or phone data. We were driving past a hill on our left. “It’s supposed to be on our right”, I said. So we turned around, and as we did, there a deer stood quietly watching us from the field.
We stopped and watched back for a moment, then gradually pulled away.
Onward we went, now in the correct direction.
After many stops and stretches, we venture to higher ground, the road revealing snowy crevices still hidden from the full sun. I point excitedly ahead, “Are those the mountains?”, which met smiles, “You’ll know when you see them” was the reply.
I relaxed for a while and then suddenly we peaked another range and there they were. Stunning alpines pointed majestically into the sky as the sun beamed serenely through a gentle haze. Behind us loomed dark clouds contrasting a scene of clarity. We paused for a while, elevated and breathing in the clean air. After several moments of basking in the radiance, we continued on down the mountain side. Turning, winding and weaving, I wondered what else would unfold as we meandered further. With the snowcaps constantly in view, eventually we came to a lake. Much closer now, the grand peaks, the sky and the water all seemed to reflect each others mood. Silvery light cascaded along silky surfaces, blue curves dived into blackness; a creative dream.
I am in love all over again, with the splendor of this moment. In the presence of these ancient ones I do not want to leave, just sit and soak in the beauty.
My body is still, my mind knows we have more miles to cover so to the car once more. I know we will return.
On we go...
The day is rapidly waning. More mountains and trees, lakes and more lakes. Some with a shiver of wind breezily across the surface, others, motionless with a perfect replica of the sky. We are now on the side of a volcano. The energy feels vast. I can feel I am returning to myself. A familiar quietness begins to fall upon the space. I am in the presence of ancient land and it is time to sink into the mystery. Although there are others traveling on the road, their anxious energy wanes with the light and a gentle yet expansive peace settles upon our hearts.
Corners this way and that, sometimes stopping to take in the moment. Natural sulfur springs puff clouds into the cool air, bubbling and seething like an underwater sea dragon defending his domain. I see silhouettes against the dusk sky, forms reflected in a river of mirrors and a crescent moon slithers quietly across the heavens.
We are nearly at our place of rest. The shades of night almost cover the world when we round a corner to see a valley of lush fields and streams. Plodding among the fields are a heard of buffalo; slowly, ethereally, they meander. I am in awe of their presence and unassuming grace. They seem so quiet, content and prehistoric.
We watch as one walks along the road, not across it, down the road, in front of the cars. We see the humour, as human’s only take note of time and maintain a schedule to fit everything into. Here, time is irrelevant, it does not exist. Our smiles grow larger. I feel the buffalo offering us a gift of peaceful presence. Their depth of being extending far beyond this moment.
Here we stay for a while, the stars twinkling brightly as the last light fades from view. It is time to rest so we retire. Distractions and voices diminish into the distance. I curl up in a cradle of peace, the energy of the sacred land reaching its way into my soul. I welcome its vast grace and wisdom and allow it to envelop me.
I dream deeply of a peaceful world.
Blog written by Laura Naomi
© Laura Naomi
Useful traveling tips and information
Yellowstone National Park
My Experience: Exceptional
My Experience: Peaceful & Eco Friendly
The thing I love about the Canyon Lodges was the new and eco-friendly element in the rooms and community areas. There are water-saving devices, LED lighting, "smart switches" and several compartments for waste, among several other things. Because of the beetle kill that has devastated many pine forests in recent years, the Canyon Lodges have recycled the diseased wood in the updated lodges.
Although it was rather busy, our stay was quiet and I felt more at ease because of the lower carbon footprint I was contributing to.
Soulful Living Blog